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Look to The Rock from Which You Were Hewn | October 2019

Dear friends,

In one of the darkest days of the people of Israel, the Lord spoke through Isaiah…

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.  Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him.”  Isaiah 51:1-2

What does it mean to be ‘hewn’?  To be hewn is to be given identity, shape, form.  And what or who is the rock?  The big ‘r’ Rock is God, of course—God our Rock, our Father, by whom we have been created and have our identity (Deut 32:18) and Christ ‘the spiritual Rock’ (1 Cor 10:4).  Also, the metaphor of the rock is extended from the person of Christ to his words and the revelation of who he is (Mt 7:24; 16:18).  Our Rock is a Gentile-reaching, cross-bearing rock.

But Isaiah 51 identifies Abraham and Sarah as a rock, too: ‘Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you’ (v2).  They are Israel’s father and mother in the faith—a human father and mother (Rom 4:12,16).

So, while our faith is ultimately in God the Rock, the very object of our faith and source of our identity, shape, and form; it is also true, in some sense, that we have in Abraham a tradition of faith and source of identity that is a secondary ‘rock’, a little ‘r’ rock, from which we are hewn.  By extension, we have this also in other human godly church fathers, like Paul, Augustine, or Luther.

As Presbyterians celebrating Reformation Day and as EPC folks who have declared intentions to be missions-focused, let us consider the rock from which we have been hewn, in terms of our church’s founding and tradition.  That includes John Calvin, one of many Reformed churchmen in our heritage.  And let us take to heart the following powerful missions commitments evidenced in John Calvin’s writings.  Perhaps they will help us shake off the dust of unhealthy traditionalism and misconceptions about what it really means to be Presbyterian or Reformed.

John Calvin to his arrested missionaries:
“Since it please him [God] to employ you to the death in maintaining his quarrel [with the world], he will strengthen your hands in the fight, and will not suffer a single drop of your blood to be spent in vain.  And though the fruit may not all at once appear, yet in time it shall spring up more abundantly than we can express.”

John Calvin commenting on Augustine:
‘”For as we do not know who belongs to the number of the predestined or who does not belong, we ought to be so minded as to wish that all men be saved.’ So shall it come about that we try to make every one we meet a sharer in our peace.”

John Calvin commenting on Isaiah 2:3:
“And indeed nothing could be more inconsistent with the nature of faith than that deadness which would lead a man to disregard his brethren, and to keep the light of knowledge choked up within his own breast.”

May we be inspired anew from the rock of our traditions, to do as John Calvin and the Reformed movement did, …

  1. to send missionaries to hard places, even where they face imprisonment and martyrdom, while pastorally and prayerfully submitting it all to God.
  2. to try to make everyone we meet a sharer in our peace.
  3. to not keep the light of the gospel choked up inside of us.
  4. to rise in faith knowing that the missions fruit we seek will in time “spring up more abundantly than we can express”. (See also Gen 12:1-3 and Is 51:3.)

Is this not the rock from which you and I were hewn?

This World Outreach Reflection on Reformation Day is by Bruce Anderson, EPC World Outreach ITEN Founder & Coordinator

Note: The first two quotations of Calvin are quoted from Haykins and Roberston, To the Ends of the Earth, 2014, p. 59.

 

Community Life

To the Ends of the Earth

If you are interested in learning more about the role of the Reformed tradition in spreading the gospel, Haykin and Robertson’s book, To the Ends of the Earth is a great starting point.

A Presbyterian Mandate

Read this free book by Frontiers founder and EPC WO global worker, Greg Livingstone. In this book, Greg challenges us to rededicate ourselves to our foundational calling: taking the gospel to those people and places that have no access to the Good News. This is available as a free pdf.

Calvin and World Missions

Download this free resource from World Reformed Fellowship that has collected articles from 1882-2002 on Calvin’s role in establishing mission theology. Interested in sharing the quotes from the Anderson’s reflection with your congregation? Download these slides and pictures – each to slip into a bulletin.

A Great Barrier to Evangelism | June 2019

Dear friends,

During my first trip to India I taught a course on the five solas of the Reformation. The national leaders who organized the event had reserved the upper room of a Catholic charity for the day and filled it with plastic lawn chairs. As I arrived early, I entered the hot and humid room to find several adults and their children sleeping on the concrete floor. After backing out of the room quietly I notified our national partners, who simply smiled. “They were so concerned that they might miss the teaching, they took a train here last night.” It is a moment I will never forget, and it is one that I speak about often as I try to help others understand the enormous need for theological education around the globe.

            At the very inception of the modern missionary enterprise, theological education and ministerial training have always been foundational values of global evangelization. From the historic 1910 World Missionary Conference in Scotland to the Third Lausanne Congress held a century later in Cape Town, South Africa, missionaries and scholars alike have long agreed that “The promotion of theological education is a life and death issue for Christianity.”

Recognizing such a need, Presbyterians in particular have often taken a lead role in the sphere of Christian education in global missions. From Ralph Winter’s groundbreaking and innovative Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program to more modern enterprises such as Richard Pratt’s Third Millennium Ministries, a Reformed perspective on global missions has often ensured a strong commitment to the holistic practice of ministering to the whole person – body, spirit, and mind.

      Sharing this same commitment, the EPC World Outreach charged Rev. Dr. Bruce Anderson with the task of forming The International Theological Education Network (ITEN) in 2010 with the goal of fulfilling the denomination’s commitment to full-cycle church planting – planting churches among the unreached who will plant churches among the unreached. Towards this end ITEN has had the privilege of watching the light of the knowledge of God to some of the most remote parts of the world including Pakistan, Siberia, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

            In each of these places we continue to hear the same refrain that while technology and globalization are making more education available to more people than ever before, it is still insufficient for the growing need. Time and time again we hear from national leaders that the greatest barrier to evangelism is not radical or fundamentalist forms of religion, but false teachers who are making it increasingly hard for people to know the difference between the gospel of health and wealth and the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why the EPC continues to affirm that any vision for church planting is futile without the simultaneous training of leaders. As Makie Stiles stated recently at The Gospel Coalition 2019 national conference, “If you don’t know what a church is, you’re going to have a very hard time planting one.” Such is the conviction of ITEN and the EPC World Outreach who are eager to continue to embody the historical vision of global missions first given to us by Christ himself: make disciples and teach them (Matt. 28:19).

*Detrich Werner, ed. Challenges and Opportunities in Theological Education in the 21st Century(Edinburgh 2010: International study group on theological education, World Study Report, 2009), 81

By Dr. Steve Woodworth, ITEN Associate Coordinator

 

Community Life

ITEN Overview

Have 5 minutes? Watch this informative introductory video to ITEN and learn about their mission, vision, and strategies as a ministry arm of EPC World Outreach.

Mission Resources

Interested in the role of the North American Church or methods of church planting? Check out our Missions and Church Planting resource pages for  information and suggestions on these topics and more!

Third Millennium Ministries

Visit Thirdmill’s website to learn more about their mission to provide free biblical education throughout the world. In addition to an abundance of resources on theology and worship, they have free seminary courses available, for those interested!